12 Artists You Have To Respect, Even If You Don’t Like Them
For the most part, rock stars are not rays of sunshine. The desires that draw one to a life onstage screaming in front of thousands of fans usually attract a thornier breed of human, primarily outspoken iconoclasts who love to rile folks up. Maybe that’s why there are plenty of rock stars who draw haters like flies with their presences or personas alone, instant anti-fans who will overlook their accomplishments on the basis of gut reaction. Even if you respect someone’s contributions to music, that doesn’t mean you have to like them.
But that road goes both ways. There are just some rock musicians whose hard work and attitude deserve your respect, even if they rub you the wrong way. These people have shown a certain level of diligence, creative prowess, and strength of character that prohibit even their biggest detractors from selling them off entirely. Often, it comes down to having the music to back up their attitude, their back catalog serving as a tangible product that illustrates just how well their specific thing is working. But love them or hate them, these people have done enough for rock and metal that you have to give them cred.
Here are 12 artists you have to respect, even if you don’t particularly care for them or their music.
Photo: Tom Barnes
Maybe Ghost’s syrupy, streamlined take on satanic heavy metal isn’t your thing — and that’s fine. But Tobias Forge has done so much for the cause that it’s impossible to speak ill of his work. Not only has he brought devil-worshipping music back into the public eye, but he’s also toiled tirelessly to endear a whole new generation of young fans to bands like Mercyful Fate and Alice Cooper. You don’t have to listen to Ghost, but come on, this dude rules.
It’s well-known that Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam D can be kind of a thorny personality, and that he doesn’t suffer fools in the press — Adam won’t feed you an easy answer or expound on his band’s legacy. But that’s exactly why we love him: where some artists are in it for the fame or the mystique, Adam’s here to write and play. That may make him a difficult interview when you want someone to, say, pay homage to one of Killswitch’s albums on its anniversary, but it also makes him the kind of metalhead you want to know in person.
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher
Sure, Cannibal Corpse’s music is unlistenable to some rock fans, and they employ some of the more gruesome imagery to ever grace the human retina. But frontman Geroge Fisher, AKA Corpsegrinder, is a tireless vocalist, a supporter of all things heavy metal, and, most of all, a loving father. Even if Corpsegrinder’s lyrics and onstage persona horrify you, it’s worth noting that he’s always down to help out young bands, and his Instagram posts about his family will have you putting a hand to your heart. Even if you’re not into toothed vaginas and rotting-body landslides, this guy deserves your props.
The members of My Chemical Romance will spend the rest of their lives escaping the “emo” label, and none of them more so than frontman Gerard Way. A generation of sneerers will forever think of him as nothing but swooped hair and eyeliner, but Gerard has shown himself to be an artist of all kinds. Nevermind that MCR shook off their dark trappings with their last full-length album — Way wrote a comic book that became a smash success on Netflix, which doesn’t just happen because some kids like your songs. That dude is a tireless creative workhorse who’s never satisfied to sit on his laurels, something that more musicians could learn a thing or two about.
The argument against Lars Ulrich is that he tried to kill music-sharing in its crib, and that he’s more concerned with money than being a great representative of metal. While the former may be true, the latter is unfair — how many millions did Metallica give away to schools and charities on their recent tour? How many classic metal stars have they invited onstage to share their limelight? Ulrich may have embraced his rock star status, but he’s done with an acknowledgment that giving back is important, and at the end of the day he remains the head of the Motörhead fan club at heart. He may not be your favorite musician, but he’s one whose influence and effort shouldn’t be denied.
Death metal purists love to hate on The Black Dahlia Murder for bringing hardcore breakdowns and neon colors into their sacred genre. Frontman Trevor Strnad certainly doesn’t help those arguments with his fun-loving demeanor and ‘heartburn’ stomach tattoo. And yet, that dude is a constant champion of underground death metal bands, wearing the shirts of up-and-comers onstage and giving them much-deserved press in his column for Metal Injection. Sure, he’s not a grim, unsmiling paragon of noise and evil — but he’s here for those who are, and for that reason, he has to be acknowledged.
Whenever Halestorm frontwoman Lzzy Hale comes up, commenters feel the need to express that they don’t care for the band’s music, or her vocals, or both, to the point where one wonders if a male vocalist would encounter the same scrutiny. But Lzzy has always been not only a diehard supporter of rock and metal, but also a force for good within it. When her band isn’t touring with Alice Cooper and covering Judas Priest, Lzzy is spearheading the #RaiseYourHorn campaign, bringing mental health issues within the rock scene to light so that young people aren’t afraid to confront them. She’s just done too much hard work for all of us to have not earned our respect.
Like that of Gerard Way, Mike Shinoda’s career will always be associated with a genre of ill-repute, in his case nu-metal. But Mike has given to charity, scored a major motion picture, and worked with some of the biggest artists in music history. Most importantly, however, is what he’s not doing: turning his late bandmate Chester Bennington into a cash cow. Plenty of other musicians would’ve used their bandmate’s suicide as a marketing tactic, but Mike has remained respectful, and hasn’t even replaced Chester. And for that, we salute him as one of rock’s good guys.
Some fans see A Day To Remember’s combination of brolic hardcore and positive pop-punk as irritating, inviting bros into the latter genre and posers into the former. So much of that onus fell upon the head of frontman Jeremy McKinnon — and yet Jeremy hasn’t let it get to him, remaining overwhelmingly positive in the face of criticism. Meanwhile, the injection of energy, color, and new possibilities that he helped provide for rock music as a whole is undeniable, and has led to some of the best contemporary rock in the past decade. You have to respect a guy for doing his job that well.
Photo: Andy Ford
Singer, author, actor, dad — Corey Taylor is a man of many hats, and he wears them all surprisingly well. And while some might bitch about how outspoken he is, or chime in with a ‘But what does Corey Taylor think?’ on the reg, it’s impossible not to respect what Corey has done for rock and metal, along with the people who make it. Not only does the dude work his ass off entertaining his fans, he’ll also stop a show to make sure they’re being taken care of. Talk shit about the guy all you want — he’s used to it — but you can’t speak ill of his character with any true conviction.
Robb Flynn is often the target of the old “Shut up and play” line from cynics who find the Machine Head frontman’s outspoken political beliefs and emotional vulnerability to be tiresome. But it’s not as though Robb is some kid who hasn’t been around the block — not only did Machine Head survive and overcome a massive stylistic shift, but Robb stuck with the project through thick and thin. His ability to speak his mind candidly seems to stem from that — after everything he’s experienced and overcome, he has no time to sit around silently or tell people to just ‘rock on and have a good time.’ You may not agree with what Robb says, but his fearlessness in saying it is undeniably admirable.
Whether for his hair or his high vocals, Coheed And Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez takes his fair share of undeserved shit. From what he told us during his In Conversation session, touring with Slipknot was intimidating to Claudio in part because fans were so vocal in their distaste. But Coheed has not only worked hard to make weird, complicated music that’s accessible to fans of punk and metal, he’s also a worldbuilder, tying together the band’s albums with the storyline of his space-faring Amory Wars. That ambitious level of conceptual artistry is impressive no matter what kind of music you like, and earns him a pat on the back whether you’re a Coheed diehard or not.
What would it sound like if Iron Maiden had written Metallica’s smash single Enter Sandman? We’re glad you asked…
Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament praises modern rock bands and the quality of music that’s coming out right now.